Carla Bozulich Quieter

[Constellation; 2018]

Rating: 4.5/5

Styles: punk rock
Others: Carla Bley, Patty Waters, Lydia Lunch, Chavela Vargas, Meredith Monk

Certainly, ripping out the fucking threads with which one’s lips were sewn shut was loud. Certainly, the screaming rage and freedom after the mouth’s maw was released was loud, too. And certainly, when screams through lacerated lips were still caged with pain, this Evangelista, this aching possibility of song, arrived as from above, if only to announce that this scream could be screamed. This lonely angel of pitch-black terror but even also of resplendence, joy, would arrive to announce that there was still an up through which to speak.

A speaking up: as in an up for someone who can’t scream like she can. A speaking up: as in a testimony on behalf of, but also, a speaking up, for which the only up is the shattering of what holds, imprisoned, down. A speaking up: as if to say that song is the instrument by which words and wordless screams spiral up into the blue… that despite the intimacy of silence, a song, now quieter, can gather oneself up in to oneself, and also oneself a song can share.

But who is there to hear, above? And, below, who is here to share?

Carla Bozulich’s fifth album under her own name is quieter. Quieter, but also quieter than. Quieter than, for instance, a nomadic punk ethos that has trespassed the barriers of years, genres, fences, fields, albums, collaborations, and projects. Quieter, for instance, than her own sound.

We can say that Quieter began when Carla lost her hearing “completely (temporarily) in 1 year” on tour in 2014. She describes the state as “strange,” “every nite like falling,” “and boy, it was freaky,” “QUIETER,” “very like thrashing through the air.” Quieter, for instance, than her own sound, but so as to be closer to it; quieter is then the sound of distance erased in soft, intimate touch. Quieter is the blurring of sound with its source.

Likewise, we can say that Quieter begins with the opening of this sound. A drone caught between a heartbeat and static swells from dire to soaring dirge, mythologizing the extinction of the outside with the discovery of this internal, gentle touch. It takes silence to hear oneself, sometimes. And the suffocating feeling of emptiness, sometimes, to gather yourself entire, and to offer it, a bouquet in hand. To say: here, take this, this is my self, to anyone, everyone, a gift. But of course Carla sings, “After this emptiness,” then “into the empty,” since to give one’s self up to is frighteningly too similar to giving up, and up, up, up the song still spins. “Let it roll,” as the earth, the moon, too, the wheel, and of course, that child, still ensconced in memory, down the hill, all everlasting roll.

Yet to imagine the perfect beauty of flowers, for instance, without one’s sight disturbing them, to let the world continue its course, without disturbing its perfection with one’s breathing, heartbeating and grieving, there is this despair that I hear, too, in this all too intimate internality. “I dreamt you cut the rope / Blew my lungs full of hope / Don’t bring me back this time / Let it roll.” That to take one’s soul is to give it up, to give it up to… up to what?

Don’t bring me back,” but Quieter also ends with the closing of this sound, “If you ever go back to the end of the world/ Darling/ Take me.” On “End of the World,” Carla sings the bare essence of what is perhaps most essential in her work, even if the song were penned by Marc Ribot over his sultry guitar. Although, there was the crisis of touch, the rupture through which silence burst, and in the emptiness, we were ourselves in rapture — though we can’t share these selves without giving it up to the world from which we must sever ourselves in order to share the crisis, the wound, even the pain and while in love, too.

Although there is no absence of noise on this record, what is quieter about it gives space to hear what was always there: a fully embodied voice that, through pain as through love, ceaselessly gives only herself, an angel whose message becomes indistinguishable in grace from the messenger. Or, you know, even these decomposed lullabies are punk rock, god damn it.

Or, in the angel’s own words:

Love and sound: are they one and the same for you? What does love sound like? What does sound love like?

punk rock.

punk rock.

punk rock.

Or:

“fuck me. now. goddamn it. the word is love. we used to call it punk rock.”

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